In the words of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), a S’pore govt-funded think tank, in its Oct Asean Monitor
Barisan Nasional’s worst-ever general election performance in May has undermined Prime MinisterNajib Razak’s promise to reform the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) after he took overits leadership in 2009. Outside UMNO, liberal reforms are stridently opposed and resisted by extremist Malay-Muslim groups such as PERKASA and by UMNO-owned media, especially the Utusan Malaysianewspaper. Within UMNO, political momentum favours former Prime Minister Mahathir and his conservative allies, who support preserving the ketuanan Melayu (“Malay ownership”) status quo.
Recognizing that UMNO needs to be further strengthened after its failure to win a convincing majority of the Malay vote, many senior party leaders and veterans will not want the president and deputy president posts, held by Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyddin Yassin, respectively, to be contested duringthe upcoming October party elections. However, the party’s three vice-presidential posts are likely tobe hotly fought over by the incumbents Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Shafie Apdal and Hishammuddin Husseinand by three challengers, namely Mohd Ali Rustam, Isa Samad and, potentially, Mukhriz Mahathir.
Recent developments have further pressured Najib to follow through with his general-election pledge totackle corruption and crime. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer report confirms the perception thatthe level of corruption in Malaysia has increased despite the government’s claims to the contrary. Publicconfidence in the corruption-tainted police force received another huge blow from the recent spike inviolent crimes, including more than 30 murder attempts in the past five months.
Because of the country’s deteriorating public finances, a global ratings agency has downgraded Malaysia’ssovereign credit rating outlook from stable to negative. The Malaysian ringgit slid to three-yearlows against the US dollar and to 15-year lows against the Singapore dollar; these slides may generate inflationary pressures. The government announced 10.5 percent and 11 percent hikes respectively in the prices of subsidized 95 RON gasoline and diesel on 3 September, and it is likely that further measuresto strengthen the country’s fiscal position will be introduced.
Key points: The status quo will persist, with conservatives gaining control of the UMNO supremecouncil. Budget 2014 will see the introduction of a GST and the scaling back and rescheduling of publicly funded projects.
The Chinese have to live with the consequences of their vote for Anwar’s group. The Indian community (which marginally supported BN) must be sore with the Chinese.
Other Asean round-up news:
Vietnam R Sembcorp (belated)
UNDETERRED by the many challenges facing Vietnam’s economy, Sembcorp has once again upped its investment in the socialist republic – this time by building central Vietnam’s first large-scale industrial park worth US$337.8 million.
This latest of five Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) is sited in Quang Ngai province, about 90 minutes’ flight south of Hanoi. It offers manufacturers a new and alternative investment locale that is away from Vietnam’s northern and southern regions, where labour markets are tighter and costs continue to rise.
VSIP Quang Ngai will take shape in the form of a 1,120ha industrial park and integrated township; the industrial park will take up 600ha, with the other 520ha slated for commercial and residential purposes. BT 14th August: PM was in Vietnam BTW.
Thailand is to hand over rice and rubber in part-payment for its new high-speed rail system, it’s reported.
The country’s transport minister is expected to formally agree the barter deal with Chinese premier Li Keqiang … The project to link Bangkok with Nong Khai, close to the Laos border, is part of a proposed 2m baht ($30bn, £19bn) infrastructure investment programme to part-financed with agricultural products. The railway is one day envisaged to link Thailand with the Southern Chinese province of Kunming, via the Laos capital Vientiane.